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Russia opens gas pipeline that runs direct to western Europe

Nord Stream link bypasses Ukraine, scene of bitter disputes over prices that have seen supplies cut off in the past

Russia has opened a key new bn pipeline running from the Baltic sea to Germany that will allow it to supply gas more easily to Britain without having to transit countries such as Ukraine.

The Nord Stream link will help Moscow in its plans to sell even more energy to the west while undermining the power of Kiev to win better deals for itself by blocking off transit supplies.

Gazprom, the Russian state-owned gas supplier, is currently in dispute with Ukraine, whose leaders have moved out of the political orbit of the Kremlin, over prices for its own gas from Moscow.

During previous rows, Russia has cut off supplies to Ukraine completely even during winter, raising accusations that prime minister, Vladimir Putin, uses energy as a political weapon – something he has always denied.

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